The Overspecified Call
I hope you had a fabulous weekend. Mine was full of laughs and tears, football and more football, excellent sermons, and friends. Does it get any better? I’ll have more to say on those things later but in the meantime I ‘ve been wanting to purge something that won’t leave my thoughts. I’ve had calling on my mind as of late and a conversation with a dear sister reminded me once again of an utterly profound counsel that my husband gave me some time back. Perhaps you are in the need for some profundity as well. Or maybe you’ll just listen along while I talk to myself.
The counsel to which I am referring came one night as I was belly-aching about my teaching the youth and children at our church. Put me in front of a group of women any day but being before a room full of glazed-over-sneaking-to-text-during-the-lesson teenagers or 40 rambunctious 2nd graders who must have eaten straight sugar for lunch will leave the most confident person (of which I am not) weak in the knees. I was feeling particularly ineffective one week when I said to Luke, “It’s obvious these kids hate me and are getting nothing from me. The problem is that I am operating outside the call. I am supposed to be teaching women, not kids.”
In the way that only Luke can do and get away with it, he said, “That is the most ridiculously unbiblical thing I’ve ever heard.” And then he asked a question, “What would you say is your gift and the thing you are called to do?”
Me: “I guess teaching.”
Luke: “Find me one place in scripture where it is specified that the one gifted to teach is given one age group in which to exercise that gift.”
Save for the Titus 2 reference of older women teaching the younger which is somewhat out of context for this conversation, I couldn’t think of a one. Then Luke said, “Every single time you are given the opportunity to stand in front of a person and teach – irregardless of that person’s age – you are operating within the call. Now stop your whining.”
Okay, he didn’t say that last part but he might as well have.
What he said is absolutely true and something that had never occurred to me until that moment. I am not at all saying there aren’t different groups to which we are drawn but what if the opportunity is not there to serve that singular segment of the population? Even though I feel most drawn to teaching women, God has not given me my own church ladies but rather has opened the wide door of ministry in the direction of the kids. It’s not what I would have chosen but I do my congregation a disservice to withhold my gift because I can’t use it in the precise manner I have determined. (God has been gracious in still allowing me the opportunity to serve women outside my congregation but I personally do not believe He ever calls us to neglect our families of faith for the broader reach of ministry.) If we aren’t careful, we can over-specify our call into oblivion and see our usefulness to the Body disappear right along with it. Our gifts were never meant to be made irrelevant by our overly-sensitive inclinations. And who knows, we may even discover we love the thing to which we previously only had an aversion.
I don’t know if this word means a thing to you but submitting to the truth of it has given me a fresh energy for being faithful in those opportunities to serve others whether or not the job matches my carefully defined parameters. Don’t minimize a gaping hole of opportunity to a minuscule bulls-eye of preference and falsely assume the call is made void.
I pray this day finds you joyfully serving and realizing that as long as we are operating within the gift we are never operating outside the call. The question is…are we operating at all? Lord, when you return may you find faithfulness upon the earth and more specifically – in me.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject?
I understand! I was drug kicking and screaming into the youth room to teach and after a rocky start, I’m so very glad my hubby got me in there. I tried children, youth, and adults and eventually adjusted so that each was a blessing to teach. I miss it now that I’m the preachers wife and not teaching at our current assignment. It did lead me to lay speaking though…and to think, I was the girl that avoided speech in college at all costs!
Krystle Dewberry Reply:
November 8th, 2011 at 2:53 am
I was reading through the replies and yours made me laugh because you said you avoided speech in college at all costs! I have done the same thing. I married my husband last year and as of April he quit his job to go into full time Ministry and is currently stepping into his role as a Pastor in his dad’s church and International Ministry. It is a lot for me to take in so I often come to this blog and just try to get as much information as I can. Right now I teach Sunday school class and love the children, but it was very hard for me to do and I still get nervous because of the speaking in front of people anxiety. It has eased a bit and I do believe God has opened up this area for me to
Krystle Dewberry Reply:
November 8th, 2011 at 3:02 am
Last comment cut off sorry, here’s the rest:
God has opened up this area for me to continue to grow and be comfortable teaching anyone so I can support my husband by talking to others, doing the announcements, and someday even assist worship (love to sing, but so nervous). I believe God has given me the spiritual gift of teaching and He definitely knows how to prepare me for this role as a Pastor’s wife. Just loved your comment and I appreciate you leaving that, it really made me laugh out loud and then be relieved that I’m not the only one scared of speaking in public (getting better)! :-) God Bless you and your family.
Go Luke! Thanks for that word. Can I borrow it for the whiners in my life? … Ok ok… for myself.
I thought for a long time I could ONLY teach children or youth. God gently, through the nudging of my husband, put me in an adlut couples class. Me a, lady teaching men in a couples class, not where I thought I should be, but OK Lord, wherever you lead. Needless to say I love my couples, there were Sundays where all I would have were men. I have since lost two of those saints and my class is almost all women. VBS I had 5&6 grade I went in kicking and screaming I don’t like this age group, give me someone else. I had mostly boys but they are the sweetest boys in the church and just give me all the hugs this PW can stand. Stand up in front of a congregation and lead music, NOOOOOO. Whereve you place me Lord teach me your ways. My calling is to be willing to serve where he places me and learn his ways from the situation. I am a little stuborn but I love how the Lord teaches and uses others to gently press me in the direction I should go. Keep submitting to his direction and your days will be full to overflowing, the blessings he wants to give you.
First of all, I’m not an emotional person and I cried like a baby while I read this. OMg….straight to the heart. We have currently been at our church for a little over a year and guess what? I teach the teen class & children’s church. I have felt the EXACT same way lately and thank you for reminding to quit whining. I am humbled at the fact that the Lord even count me worthy to teach these kids. They are a huge blessing and I’ve completely lost sight of that. I’ve grown up in church (my dad was a pastor) and then I married one. :) So, in my little bubble I sometimes can become inwardly whiny. Only the Lord usually knows I’m pouting. I’m refreshed today! I am not operating outside the call. I’m thankful that He even lets me operate at all. Thank you so much for sharing your heart so openly with us.
Ok, you read my mail with this one. I just recently had the same conversation with my husband. I heard myself saying, “I love teaching our kids, but other people’s kids are a different story.” Yep, he very sweetly told me to quit whining too:) And the very next day, a mom came up to me telling me how much her child had learned from my recent lesson. I thought those kids didn’t hear a word I said!! The advice you shared here is so right-on…it’s our job to be obedient to the call…God will do the rest and accomplish His will.
Krystle Dewberry Reply:
November 8th, 2011 at 3:07 am
Oh my I feel the same way! I teach our Sunday school class and when parents say nice things about the lesson, I always smile and think to myself, “Thank you Lord for giving them the power to hear my voice while they are wrestling each other to the ground!” lol okay they are not always wrestling and they do try hard to listen, but we all know what a room full of kids that wound up can be like :-). Thanks for sharing your response, loved it!
Right on, Lisa! Too many (including me) have missed out on the blessing
and stretching that God needs to do in and through us!
Great column. Just because you are a pastor’s wife, does that mean you are called to teach? For me, I have struggled with this whole teaching thing. I tried 5th & 6th grades when it was just a girls class but got out of there when boys moved up. I have tried teaching the missions class in VBS. I feel teaching isn’t my gift or my calling because I struggle with it so much. Is that my feelings or is it God impressing upon He can use me somewhere else? Again, Lisa, thanks for your open and honest writings.
Lisa @ The Preacher's Wife Reply:
November 8th, 2011 at 9:25 pm
I believe the call to teach can be defined for those who particularly love digging beyond the obvious and explaining insights/applications to students. That can apply to any age range of people.
However, and I shared this in church one day when we were appealing for children’s teachers, I personally believe as adults we are all commanded to share the truths of God with children according to Deuteronomy 6 irregardless of a specific call to expound the scriptures. In other words, the adults at large within a congregational body often use “I’m not called to teach” as a cop out for ministering to kids. However, we are not off the hook for teaching them from the overflow of our knowledge and experience just because there is no call to expound. Does that make sense?
Remember my Awana post….uhmm….yes ‘mam.
I’m actually the opposite of you & some of the comment posters. I LOVE youth ministry especially middle schoolers. Put me in a room of crazy, chaotic, smart mouthed middle schoolers any day! I know–it’s pretty crazy. I’ve had a passion for it since I was barely out of middle school itself. Part of if it is God became very real to me and I grow enormously in my faith at age 14 due to some pretty incredible teachers in my Christian school. Anyway we NEED faith volunteers that will love on thest young people b/c the majority of the church doesn’t want the job. Because it’s not very rewarding, it’s tough, and it is A LOT of ups and downs. I had three great weeks straight of awesome middle school meetings and last week was so discouraged I wanted to throw in the towel. Keep pressing on! These kids need consistency and they need to know how much God cares about them!
I love the children’s ministry as well, but I think I applied this message to the next part of my teaching gift that I feel uncomfortable doing which is speaking in front of a group of adults. For me teaching children feels natural even though the first few times I was nervous I was going to bore them, but I get very anxious when my in laws (Pastors of our Church) and my husband (Pastor as well) asks me to pray over a group of people, or do announcements. I think it’s more about God preparing us for the next chapter in our lives and being thankful for what we are given now. It’s like sometimes we have new members who become discouraged when they cannot immediately join the worship team or become a Pastor. They don’t want to do the serving and make that commitment if it doesn’t involve a title. I was the opposite, I always loved to serve and never wanted to be in the spotlight. And before I knew it I had served for years at our church and began moving into different roles. It’s amazing because now I am with the children teaching and it is molding me to where I need to be. He is the potter I am the clay….
Loved your reply and to see you so happy to teach the kids and teens. You seem so joyful! God Bless you and your family!!!
Love Love Love this post and it just touched my heart. What a Blessing to have your husband reminding you those things that we don’t really want to hear, mine has done the same. I truly feel Blessed when he listens to God and tells me I need to be thankful where I am at and have true Faith that God always knows what He is doing and that we are merely vessels that HE has put the life into. We don’t walk in flesh that is just physical, we walk in spirit with God and do His work and truly any opportunity for us to be working for Him is an honor. I spend hours preparing for our children’s ministry because they are the future and they will be tomorrow’s Ministry leaders and are the most important generation of the church. I have grown into my role as a Sunday school teacher and know that is has pushed me to become more involved in bringing His word to life, making it relevant to them, and more flexible when it comes to speaking to groups of two or more people. Sounds funny saying I was nervous talking in front of two people, but honestly I was and teaching the children has made me more confident and shown me that I can do all things through Christ. Thank you for your wonderful post! It can be compared to anything in our lives. We all complain about something and if we know it is where God wants us then we need to be joyful and do the best we can.
God Bless <3
I love those wise husband’s! I’ve been just where you are myself. And honestly, heard pretty much the same answer from my own husband! Let me tell you how God used my obedience to bless not only me but my own kids.
I was always “stuck” teaching younger kids & youth (and my heart was drumming a beat for women) in just about every church we’ve served.
When my kids finally reached the youth dept. I was the lead teacher of their large SS class. I tried everything to get out of it…but nothing would work out for anyone else to teach it. So I perservered.
Fast forward a couple of years and a “new” church. I realized just how much my kids had learned from my teaching. [Don’t misunderstand this as boasting!]
I had no idea how much my method of teaching had influenced my own children. They were solid in their beliefs and the foundation of truth is strong & unwavering.
What I thought was my ministry misplacement–God used for His good. I feel grateful that He used me in the process.
NOTE: I’m not claiming that another teacher could not influence my kids either. I believe the Holy Spirit is at work and He will use a willing vessel. I’m just glad I was “stuck” in that spot afterall! ;)
Lisa – As always I love to read your writing and adore you. What Luke told you so reminds me of Gary’s advice to me way back in the day was I was trying to “find my place.” He said “get up and get busy for the LORD.” Period. Pretty much told me the time I spent whining was wasted. He was right. I do know God graces us with specific gifts for the body – but He blesses our service and leads us as we are supposed to be as we walk in faith and live for Him each day. I found my place leading/serving in women’s ministry – it brings me JOY. And so do you!
Love you much,
Jan (G.J.) Reply:
November 8th, 2011 at 1:28 pm
I can’t type today… *as I was trying to find my place… AND *leads us to where we are supposed to be…
And you still bring me JOY!